MAIL TODAY COMMENT: Question of motivation behind UPA proactivity

By Mail Today Comment


India's Finance minister Chidambaram has taken many steps to boost the economy, which includes abolishing import and excise duties on LPG cylinders

India's Finance minister Chidambaram has taken many steps to boost the economy, which includes abolishing import and excise duties on LPG cylinders

Another round of big-ticket executive moves from the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) - this time through tax benefits, saving schemes and duty cuts -makes it clear that the proactive mood displayed through diesel price rationalisation and retail FDI was not a one-off.

Finance Minister P Chidambaram announced on Friday the approval of an Equity Savings Schemes to encourage first-time retail investors and cut the withholding tax on overseas borrowing to 5 per cent from 20.

The ministry also abolished import and excise duties on LPG cylinders. The moves are certain to bolster investor sentiment and improve the outlook of the economy, and were enough to prompt the Sensex to a 14-month high Friday.

All these proactive efforts from a government that only weeks ago seemed mired in policy paralysis, however, brings up the question of why the UPA took three years to take action.

Pranab Mukherjee's move to Rashtrapati Bhavan seems to definitely have had an impact, with the reformist voices in the UPA gaining the upper hand over the more socialist section.

Equally important, however, has been the imminent evaluation from credit ratings agencies, with the government keenly aware of the potentially disastrous effects of the country being downgraded to junk status.

But if that was the primary reason the UPA was spurred into action, it brings up the unfortunate image of a government that only moves after being pushed all the way to the brink.

This suggests that the populace has to wish for an absolute crisis before it can expect any real action from its representatives.

One can now only hope that the government has been jolted enough for the proactive mood to last for the rest of its tenure.

Red alert for government

What has long been suspected seems to have a basis in reality. The Intelligence Bureau (IB) has evidence of Left extremists infiltrating workers' organisations in the National Capital Region with the agenda of fomenting violent protests.

Significantly, the recent violence at Maruti's Manesar plant, which left a senior executive dead is believed to have had the support of Maoist groups, which have established the Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF) to propagate their ideology in urban areas.

This is a wake-up call for our governments. The Maoists' writ already runs in a large chunk of this country's territory and the last thing we need is for their violent ideology to take hold in our cities.

That the process is under way was confirmed when minister of state for home Jitendra Singh told Parliament recently that seven out of Delhi's 11 districts are under the influence of left-wing extremism.

This also explains the criminality that otherwise blue collar workers displayed at the Maruti plant in July.

Needless to say, our cities with growing social disparities and the poor living conditions they offer to the underprivileged are a fertile ground for spread of such extremist ideologies.

So it will not be enough to go after Maoists. Our representatives also need to improve their governance standards to quell public discontent.

An unfortunate break-up

The decision of Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal to go separate ways is a serious blow to what has been referred to as the movement against corruption.

In a sense this became inevitable after Mr Hazare chose to disband Team Anna, with one section of the anti-corruption crusaders deciding to take to the political path to attain their objectives.

But what has surprised is Mr Hazare's declaration that he would not allow Mr Kejriwal's yetto- be launched party to even use his name to further its political prospects.

Social activist Anna Hazare along with Arvind Kejriwal addresses the media after a meeting

Social activist Anna Hazare along with Arvind Kejriwal addresses the media after a meeting

This indicates that the break is complete. Considering that the two men were the driving force of the Lokpal campaign which captured the nation's imagination last year, there is a genuine danger of both Mr Hazare's apolitical campaign and Mr Kejriwal's political quest suffering on account of the split.

Just as Mr Kejriwal will miss the spiritual stature that Mr Hazare brought with himself, the latter will be poorer without the former's acumen and intellectual ability.

It's unfortunate that they could not reach a middle ground on their differences.



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